Help Whip Cancer 2018

help-whip-cancer-03-may2018We all know someone affected by breast cancer.  16 years ago, a close friend of mine lost her life to the disease at the age of 33. That is just one of the reasons Pampered Chef’s Help Whip Cancer campaign is so personal to me.

Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women. Since 2007, breast cancer death rates have remained steady in women younger than 50, but have decreased in older women. The American Cancer Society believes this decrease is the result of early detection and increased awareness, as well as better treatments. Pampered Chef began its Help Whip Cancer campaign in May 2000 to raise funds to assist the American Cancer Society with breast cancer education and early detection programs. To increase our impact, we added our October campaign in 2008. Since the beginning of our Help Whip Cancer campaign, Pampered Chef consultants and customers have contributed more than $12 million to aid the American Cancer Society’s fight against breast cancer. More than 3.1 million breast cancer survivors are celebrating another birthday this year!

How can you help?  First, you can host a Help Whip Cancer Fund-Raiser! Up to 25% of the total sales will be contributed to the American Cancer Society for their breast cancer education and early detection programs. You and your friends can shop, try a delicious recipe, and make a big impact in the fight against breast cancer.  I’m available for live parties if you’re local to me in PA or we can do a virtual event via Social Media.  Simply comment here on this blog post and we’ll set it up!

Second, you can purchase our exclusive PINK products. These are specific products to help raise breast cancer awareness. For every Help Whip Cancer product purchased during May, Pampered Chef will contribute $1 to the American Cancer Society for breast cancer education and early detection programs. These limited-edition kitchen tools are the perfect addition to your kitchen so that you can to enrich lives; one meal and one memory at a time.

This year, our featured products are:

  1. Pink & White Twixit! Clips #100007 $6.50 – Twixit! Clips provide a sure seal for all types of bags and are safe to use in a freezer, microwave or on “boil in” bags. The set of 10 includes two giant, four large and four small in pink and white. And they are Dishwasher-safe!
  2. 2-cup Prep Bowl Set #1742 $16.50 – Store prepared ingredients, melt butter in the microwave, make mini cakes, store leftovers and more! These tempered glass bowls measure 1 cup to the rim. The set of two are dishwasher-, freezer-, microwave- and oven-safe to 350°F; lids are dishwasher-safe.
  3. Pink Whipped Cream Maker #1797 $25.00 – Ditch the store-bought toppings and make your own with the Whipped Cream Maker. With just three ingredients and 30 seconds, you can make your own flavored toppings for pie, sundaes, cakes, waffles, other baked goods, coffee, and hot cocoa. You can also make fresh, homemade butter and super-fluffy scrambled eggs.  It has a 1-cup capacity to fill line that makes 2 cups of whipped cream. The pumping lid locks in place, the nonskid silicone base doubles as a storage lid and it’s dishwasher-safe.  Click here to see it in action!
  4. Mini Skinny Scraper #1704 $7.50 – The Mini Skinny Scraper is ideal for mixing ingredients in small bowls, and scraping food from jars and cans. It can also be used for mixing, stirring, scraping and transferring small amounts of food. The thin head and pointed end help you get into corners and hug the sides of rounded bowls.Measuring 7¾”, the Heavy-duty silicone head is fused to the nylon handle for strength and durability. It won’t come apart, split, stain, burn, melt or crack and the it is heat-resistant to 450°F. And it’s dishwasher-safe!

To purchase any of these products and support our campaign, click here!  Plus, there are additional pink products in our outlet!

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Inspiralized & Beyond Book Signing

IMG_1951About two months ago, one of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors posted in her Facebook group that she was planning a book signing in New York City on May 1st, the day her latest cookbook became available.  I had already pre-ordered her book and was excited to head up to the city to attend!

I asked my sister who lives in NYC to go with me so we met up for a drink at Terroir and then headed over to Maman Tribeca for the event.  When we arrived, there was Ali being so gracious greeting everyone and a HUGE spread of food from the new book!

Some of the recipes we tried were the Vegan Cheese Ball, Ricotta & Fig Golden Beet Crostini, the Zucchini Pork Dumplings and BLT Sweet Potato Sliders.  I loved all of them!  (My sis wasn’t so keen on the Cheese Ball though!)

IMG_1863Since I knew I was attending the signing, I change the shipping on my pre-ordered book to my oldest sister for her birthday.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the signing, they didn’t have books for purchase.  But Ali being on the ball, had stickers she signed and personalized for our books!  The next morning my first stop was at Barnes & Noble to pick up two copies!

I knew I’d love the book when she shared on IG some of the chapter contents.  Everything sounded delicious!  I’ve been cooking from her other two cookbooks for the last few months and have yet to try anything that I didn’t love.  She just knows how things should go together and features other things I would have never thought to try.

My favorite part of the book is “how to go beyond”.  This was the info that I’ve been searching for!  Ideas like how to use vegetable slabs to replace toast, using jicama as taco shells and using mushrooms and lentils to replace meats.

IMG_1952Last week she did a live demo of her Hoisin-Pulled Hearts of Palm with Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Ginger-Lime Slaw.  I can’t wait to give that recipe a try!  I went to the store this morning and the recipes in the lineup this week to try out are the Chickpea “Tuna” Salad with Avocado & Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Shrimp & Green Beans with Scallion Kohlrabi Rice and the Chicken Saltimboca Skillet with Spinach & Rosemary Potatoes.

Ali has been such an inspiration to me and I’m excited to test a recipe this week… revamping an old favorite to make it healthier and GF/DF (more on that later this week!)

It was such a wonderful few days in NYC and meeting Ali was so special.  She was so kind and gracious!  She took her time to talk to everyone who came and took pictures as well.  She’s very, very inspiring!

Family

scan0215I grew up the youngest of six kids in Birmingham, MI, a suburb of Detroit.  My mom was (and still is) an amazing cook and homemaker.  She always made each meal special and each night the table was set and we had dinner as a family.

On Sundays and other special occasions, we’d have dinner in the dining room or if it was a bigger gathering, we’d be in the family at the really big table.

Candles were always lit at dinner and we used cloth napkins, a tradition Bill and I carry on no matter what night of the week. Mom always had some kind of centerpiece.  How she found the time to do it all still amazes me to this day!

She involved us in the cooking process (only if we wanted to be involved) and I never remember anyone complaining about anything she made.  Well, that’s not 100% true.  One time my sister and I begged her to make Hamburger Helper.  I don’t even want to now think about all of the processed grossness that must be in that box.  Anyway, it must have been the ads on tv with the BIG hand waving and the kids being all happy at dinner time.  Mom gave in and made it one night.  It was HORRIBLE.  I always wondered if it was really that bad or if she doctored it up somehow so she knew we wouldn’t like it and we’d never ask for it again.  I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this is what dog food tastes like?”  Needless to say, we never asked and mom never made it again.

But really, she was a genius in the kitchen.  When I said the no one ever complained?  I asked her about that once… how did she do it?  She told me that she knew what everyone enjoyed and one day each week she made something that someone would like.  She figured at least one person would be happy each day because she knew she could never please all of us all the time.  Although I suspect she pretty much did that because her cooking is fantastic.

She was ahead of her time too.  Somehow she got her hands on old tin tv dinner trays. Not the disposable ones, but real metal ones.  It seemed like we had dozens stacked in our basement, although I’m sure it wasn’t that many.  But what she would do was after dinner was over, she would portion the leftovers into the trays and make her own customized tv dinners for us.  They would always be stacked in the freezer in the basement.  When she and my father would be heading out to a dinner party or hockey game, I remember loving that before the babysitter came, we would run down and pick out our dinner.  They were all different and extremely tasty, because of course, they were homemade.

sc0007Every holiday was special and one of my favorite times of the year would be before Christmas when mom would make my grandmother’s sour cream sugar cookies and we’d get to decorate them.

We’d get home from school to the aroma of the freshly baked cookies and after dinner, she’d set us up with frosting in several colors, sprinkles and other decorations to complete the task.

Every holiday meal was an elegant affair and normally included several guests in addition to our 8.  Mom always pulled it together flawlessly and never expressed an ounce of stress. When I was a teenager she put on an Easter brunch each year for around 30 hungry hockey players and their families.  She did that party 16 years in a row and averaged over 100 guests each time.

It’s because of her and my father and their love of entertaining that inspired Bill and I to host several events each year.  One thing I am looking forward to is hosting dinner parties.  We’ve done a handful but I’d like to add more to our lineup.  They are fun, a great way to entertain without the noise and rush of being in a restaurant.  Plus, it’s a lost art that I think needs to come back into fashion.  Stay tuned for my ideas on those!

 

Extreme Self Care

IMG_1695When I was working with my lifecoach, one thing she stressed was Extreme Self Care.  When I first came across this idea in her first book, I thought that I did this.  I should mention that I first read that book in 2002 (the original… she’s published an updated version since).  As time has gone on, I’ve realized that in some sense, I have done this, but in many ways I’ve come up very short.

12 days ago, Bill left for an overseas business trip.  I was bound and determined to make our time apart a self-care mini vaca!  I planned to spend the two weeks we would be apart doing things that were all about me… working out, trying new recipes, spending time with my friends, etc.

The first night was fantastic. I went down to my neighbors house to hang out with her and another girlfriend. Their kids were there an in addition the fun conversation and lots of wine, we made s’mores over the fire. Well, they did!  I opted to stick to my eating plan.

I had predetermined that my first day off I would do nothing.  And I meant NOTHING.  I would lay around and read, watch movies and nap.  I was *almost* successful.  I did get outside and work in the yard for an hour.  Then I came in and spent the rest of the day being extremely lazy.  It was wonderful, and also hard. I had to discipline myself to not start a load of laundry, tidy up, or do any of the other dozen things I felt like I should be doing.  It ended up being blissful!

Sunday morning I got up and began my workouts.  The plan was to workout every day until Bill came back. Remind me again what they say about “best laid plans”?  Right.  Well, that day went well.  I did laundry, grocery shopped, prepped my food and lunch for the week.  It was perfect.

Monday I got up and worked out before heading in to the office.  But during the afternoon the scratchy throat and coughing began.  I brushed it off to the weather changes, burning myself out (the previous week had been very hectic) and every other excuse I could come up with so I could be in denial about what was really going on.

When I woke up Tuesday morning, I knew. I had the flu.

Out the door went my workouts and everything else I had intended on doing during my self-care mini vaca.  That was just over a week ago.  This past weekend was a complete wash as I spent 90% of it in bed with a fever.  On Monday I went to the office because I was feeling better but was sent home after 2.5 hours because I looked and sounded miserable.

IMG_1759Needless to say, I have not exercised in over a week and I have done almost zero cooking for myself.  Thankfully Bill loves his foodsaver and has our freezer stocked.  There were plenty of meals in there ready to go for dinner.

After I left the office Monday, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up what I needed to make some soup.  I had made the Easy Clear Onion Soup from Inspiralized in January when we ate vegan for the month and remembered how much I loved it. I just love it because it’s the perfect comfort food. Usually my go-to recipe when I wouldn’t be feeling well was this one, but that was in my pre-PHPT days.

Thankfully now I am on the upswing and will be 100% for Bill’s return and the other fun things we have planned for this weekend including going to see my neighbor and her husband perform in this!

Hypercalcemia

bone healthHyper-what?  Exactly.  Back in October when I was Rxed with PHPT, it also came out that is has caused me to have Hypercalcemia.

Hypercalecemia is a condition in which the calcium levels in my blood are above normal.  Too much calcium can weaken bones, cause kidney stones and interfere with how my heart and brain work.

The most common causes are an overactive thyroid (me having PHPT) with a small, noncancerous tumor on one of my four parathyroid glands.  When I was tested, they discovered mine is .25″ or about the size of a small pea.

Normally there isn’t enough calcium in my blood, so my parathyroid gland secretes a hormone that triggers my bones to leach calcium into my bloodstream, my digestive track to absorb more calcium than normal and my kidneys to excrete less calcium and activate more Vitamin D.

If my bones continue to leach the calcium, I can develop osteoporosis, develop bone fractures more easily, devlope spinal column curvature and, wait for it… loss of height.

Hypercalcemia also effects the electrical impulses that regulate my heartbeat, causing it to beat irregularly.  Other fun effects are tingling in fingertips, toes and lips, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, fatigue, brittle nails and depression and anxiety.

All fun, right?  Well this is where things are interesting for me… about 8 years ago, my irregular heartbeat was becoming more and more frequent so I ended up being tested at the Beaumont Women’s Heart Center.  If anyone is near there, I highly recommend the comprehensive test they do.  I think every woman in her 40s should have it done.  If you’re not local, find a women’s heart center and get tested.  And be sure it’s a WOMENS heart center, not mens.  They two operate VERY differently.

The result of the testing found two things… first, when my blood work came back, I had zero Vitamin D in my system.  Not only was it flagged as low, they could not detect ANY.  Second, they diagnosed me with PVC… Premature Ventricular Contraction.

They put me on heavy Vitamin D and Calcium regiment , above and beyond what I should have normally and suggested more milk in my diet.  At the time I was drinking Whole Milk.  Whenever I would have an episode where my heart was acting up, I’d pop additional Vitamin D and Calcium and wash them down with the milk.  I was drinking about 3 gallons of milk each week.

Last fall, I decided to have a physical after my sister went and was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (the fourth in my family to be diagnosed… now I have 3 sisters and a niece with it).  During the exam, the wonderful and knowledgable PA took ahold of my hand and asked, “Have your nails always been brittle?” to which I responded, “Yes.”  They have as long as I can remember.

Then she asked, “Has anyone ever tested your thyroid?” No.  Never.

Fast forward to the blood tests, radioactive imaging, and bone density scans.  The call came in with the PHPT diagnosis along with a cease and desist of all calcium and any supplements (not even a daily multivitamin) that have calcium in them.  That’s when my research began and I found the best diet for me is paleo while avoiding soy and corn as much as possible too.

So that is how we are eating now and will be a focus of what I will be writing about!  On that note, I am finally done with Job #2! I now work Job #3 4 days each week with Wednesday’s off (woot!) and will be blogging then.  I’ll be working Job #1, well the office-part anyway, on Wednesday’s as well.

As I write this, I can’t help but think back to moments when my heart would act up and I would chug the milk and take the supplements… was I poisoning myself when I did that?  I don’t linger on that, but at times I am curious.  But then I smile and think about how grateful I am that I have a proper diagnosis!

A coworker asked me one day, when she examined my quinoa salad that I was having for lunch, if I had noticed any changes with my new way of eating.  I paused and realized that since I’ve been eating paleo, I haven’t had any irregular heartbeats.  When I do lose willpower and have wheat and dairy, within hours it’s back beating irregularly.  Thankfully now I know it will pass and it’s a strong reminder of how important it is for me to stick to my diet not matter what.

It’s funny in that for the first time in I don’t know how long, I am beginning to feel balance.  Let’s hope it stays that way!

Tonight I have a Pampered Chef Party!  We are making this recipe and I’m so excited to share this new MultiPot with the guests!

Shop my kitchen!

What We Ate This Week

Last Sunday I did my shopping but didn’t do any prep for the week as I was still feeling lousy from the cold I’ve been fighting and we had been up late the night before attending the Winter Jubilee.  On the menu were persimmons but neither store I went to had them so someone suggested plums or mangoes and since it’s a warm dish, I felt plums would be best.

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 5.17.16 PMSunday night we had Meatballs with Brussels Sprouts from The Fresh20 Paleo menu.  The meatballs weren’t sensational but I like to try recipes the way they are written the first time without changes (I’ll eat those words later, literally).  I should have known better as I was making them but I forged ahead and while they were fine, they weren’t great.  The Brussels Sprouts were amazing!

Monday I was super excited as I LOVE LOVE LOVE scallops!  The original recipe was Scallops with Warm Persimmon Salad. This dish was gorgeous to make and even better to eat!  The plums were sensational and this was a gorgeous meal to serve.  And you can never, ever go wrong with scallops!  It would be great for a dinner party!

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 5.17.03 PMWednesday I had a PC party so Bill’s sister made us dinner of steak, sweet potato and salad.  At the party I made Warm Vegetable Dip (which they devoured in a hot second) and Chocolate Lava Cake with Homemade Whipped Cream.

Thursday I was excited to get back in the kitchen… it was a long day on my feet (excited that chapter will be ending soon) and the Rustic Sausage Soup was perfect.  I added in a can of cannellini beans.  PC has a great recipe that is similar that has the beans.

Friday called for Chicken Ragu over Zoodles but I opted to make the Bikini Bolognese from Inspiralized.  That recipe NEVER disappoints.  So that is when I decided that, going forward, if I am reading a recipe and can tell right out of the gate it’s not going to be amazing, I can make it amazing.  I’m not new in the kitchen and I feel like I finally know what flavors go together and I have enough resources to find what I need.  Life’s too short to eat bland food, right?

Screen Shot 2018-03-03 at 5.16.26 PMTonight I hadn’t planned to cook because we have leftovers in the fridge, I had a late lunch and I’m not sure I’m in the mood but what is left on the menu is Tamale Stuffed Sweet Potatoes. Now that I’m thinking about it, yeah… it’s not going to happen. My ground beef is still frozen.  Plus, it’s just me tonight.  If someone else were here, I’d definitely be cooking.  

On another note, I renewed my StitchFix subscription and have my first box arriving next week!  Since I will be working more at Job#3 in the near future, I need some more business-appropriate attire.

Now, saving the best for last!  This week Pampered Chef revealed our NEW Spring/Summer products!  I’m so excited to be able to talk about them now!  Keeping them under wraps for five weeks was TOUGH, especially since I’ve been using the new skillets almost every day.  Not only are they gorgeous but they are exceptional!

See anything you like?  You can shop my kitchen anytime by clicking HERE!

So I think that is it for now… my quiet evening ahead consists of eating leftovers (I’m thinking that soup will be perfect), catching up on my reading (I’m currently reading this book that I started last summer!) and possibly a movie (aka whatever is on the Hallmark channel!)